By Tori Wittenbrock
Associate Sports Editor
KAUKAUNA – On Friday, Oct. 27, the West De Pere Phantoms (6-1 conf.) saw a season-ending 13-7 loss to the Kaukauna Galloping Ghosts (6-1 conf.) in an orange and black face-off to kick off Halloween weekend.
West De Pere, looking for redemption after their 22-25 loss against Kaukauna earlier in the season — a game which also came down to the final play — was unable to find the endzone after finding themselves with the ball at the 18-yard line with just one second left in the game.
“I’m going to have to go back and watch the film, but from what I saw, it was just kids battling their tails off. It’s hard when you lose in a game like that,” said West De Pere Head Coach Chris Greisen.
The game started off well for the Phantoms as West De Pere was able to hold off Kaukauna on their first drive, taking over on downs at their own 28.
However, after being unable to get down to the endzone, the game saw a scoreless first quarter.
Kaukauna started off the second quarter strong with a completion to wide receiver Brock Verboncouer that brought them from their own 35 to the West De Pere 28-yard line.
The Galloping Ghosts finished off the drive with a field goal from the 12-yard line to take a 3-0 lead.
West De Pere was able to hold them to a 3-0 lead to wrap up the first quarter with a quarterback sack going into halftime.
Kaukauna Running Back Connor Kincheloe was able to bring the Ghosts up from the 23 to the 38 on a run up the middle by dodging a few missed tackles from West De Pere early on in the third quarter.
Kincheloe again gutted the Phantoms up the middle bringing his team up another 42 yards to the West De Pere 20.
Parker Schuh then received a completion in the endzone for a touchdown from 15 yards out to bring Kaukauna’s lead to 10-0 with 9:35 remaining in the third quarter.
West De Pere, however, proved to be relentless with a deep throw from quarterback Duke Shovald which was caught by wide receiver Ben Lemirand to bring the Phantoms from their own 30 to the Kaukauna 35-yard line.
However, after another attempt at a long pass, a bobbled reception in the air turned over possession at the 17-yard line as Kaukauna’s Jason Shiffert intercepted Shovald’s next pass.
Things really started to look bleak, however, when an injury brought out West De Pere senior Andrew Baumgart with just under 6 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Greisen, however, said that he was proud of how the defense was able to perform in his absence.
“I thought they did a great job,” said Greisen. “I thought they played really well. They battled. The kids gave everything they had, and that’s what we asked of them. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough tonight.”
The Ghosts secured another three points on a field goal when they found themselves at 4th and 7 with the ball on the 22-yard line.
Kaukauna’s 13-0 lead still left a promising amount of time for a West De Pere comeback, however.
Phantom Maddox Black returned Kaukauna’s attempted onside kick to the 49-yard line at the end of the third quarter.
The Phantoms worked their way towards the end zone with the help of running back Evan Ott, eventually finding themselves with a 4th down with the ball at the 5-yard line.
Ott lobbed the ball up towards the back of the endzone to find receiver Joseph Riesenberg for their first score of the night.
The Phantoms, now only one touchdown away from taking the lead, had a 13-7 score on the board with 8 minutes remaining in the game.
“It was a great catch by Riesenberg in the back of the endzone, but we didn’t execute when we needed to (later on). Had we done that, I think we would see a lot more smiles versus tears over here.”
After then holding Kaukauna to their own 22, a bad snap resulted in a punt that brought West De Pere up to Kaukauna’s 39-yard line.
Shovald found Lemirand with a completion that brought the Phantoms up 12 yards to the 25-yard line with just 4:33 left in the game.
Ott secured another first down for his team, later bringing them up to 4th and 7 with the ball on the 8-yard line, with just 1:46 on the clock.
However, poor execution on the next play saw Kaukauna recover the ball on their own 12-yard line, seemingly putting an end to the game.
Yet, West De Pere managed to gain possession with just 1 second remaining with the ball on the 18.
In one final attempt of the night, Shovald desperately tried to find Ott in the end zone in an unsuccessful final play of the season, leaving the Phantoms with a 13-7 final score in their WIAA Level 2 game.
Despite the disappointing end to their season, Griesen said he is proud of his team for their overall performance this season.
“It was gutty. I’m proud of them. They battled. We had some injuries to some of our best players on the team. To see them battle and to play within one second of scoring right before the end of the game, it says a lot about the character and the grit of our kids,” said Greisen. “We have to go back to the drawing board now. We need new kids to step up and be leaders on this team. Hopefully that will come as we progress.”